We’ve all recognised a sales call from the opening sentence, or a sales pitch at a network event from a total stranger. We all seemingly have a sixth sense that can detect when someone has an agenda to their communication, even from their first few words. So what changes? What happens to people when they try to engage with us in order to sell their goods and services?

Firstly, just that; they try to ‘sell’. After years of sales stereotypes, pitches, cheesy opening remarks, well-rehearsed statements, false rapport building (“What’s the weather like where you are?”) and self-edifying personal statements people have a strong radar for being ‘sold’ to; and we hate it! If for one second we feel someone is trying to manipulate, cajole, influence or in any way be none-genuine with us our defences go up, our ears turn off and our wallets stay tightly closed.

People buy from genuine people who have their best interest at heart, who we have good rapport with and whom we like. This deep seeded gage we have of who to trust and who not is a strong survival mechanism that has kept us safe for millennia. If you trigger a person’s BS alarm for just a second they will close down on you and the sale is over. So what can you do? First of all you need to understand why we change when we sell and what we do wrong.


“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder” – Rumi

It is far quicker to interpret the meaning of a message from the tone of the voice than process what the words in that message actually mean – just ask a dog! Quite often when approaching a prospect for the first time either over the phone or face to face we are nervous, our vocal chords tighten, our mouth dries and our brain races; this has some interesting effects. The sound we produce is closer to Barney the Dinosaur or a commercial radio DJ, we speak incredibly fast (as our brain is racing ahead with what to say because of nerves and our mouth tries to play catch up) and we throw information at people that they have no context for or any interest in. The over-all result is to sound not like yourself but more like all the stereotypes people associate with ‘sales’. This triggers a quick calculation from your prospect – You don’t sound genuine, therefore you are false, therefore you are ‘salesy’ and not to be trusted, therefore; goodbye! This entire process can happen within seconds. They may not end your call or conclude your meeting but they will switch off their ears, their attention will divert elsewhere and your efforts will be wasted. So what can you do differently?

  • The quickest way to sound like you know your stuff, is to know your stuff! Understand exactly how what you are selling ‘helps’ people. What problem does it solve? What money, time or effort does it save? What change will it make to people’s lives? Once you understand this you must believe it too! Get excited about sharing your news with people and enthuse over investigating exactly how you can help. When you are 100% sold on what you are saying you will sound 100% like somebody worth listening too.
  • Calm down, right down to your stomach. As a nervous, shaky voice is created higher up in your body try talking on the out breath, deepening your voice and slowing your pace. A deeper, slower voice is perceived as authoritative and in control.
  • Be yourself! What would you say if you were introduced to someone when on a night out with friends? “Hello. My name is Craig. I work for a company called xyz transport. I’d like to talk to you about an exciting night out we’re going to have!” Really? When in relaxed company we just don’t talk like ‘sales’ people talk. So stop it! Relax, have a conversation and be you. After all, you are the best person at being you that there is!





“You don’t deserve a point of view if the only thing you see is you” – Paramore

So often you receive sales calls that start at a million miles an hour and within seconds you have been told everything that the company offers, the price and who else they have done business with. No breath has been taken, you’ve no name, no context for the interruption and no clue to what is going on. Most of all you feel that in the whole process you are the least valued part of the sales call. Whether we admit it or not, we all love to talk about one thing above anything else – ourselves! The common misconception about selling is that you have to ‘pitch’ or have ‘spiel’ to deliver at the prospect. Sales are not made from amazing speeches or presentations, they are made from interesting, empathetic two way conversations.

  • When a ‘salesy’ sales person enters a meeting you feel they are the most important person in the room; when a quality, professional sales person enters the room you feel that you are the most important person in that meeting. Show genuine interest in your prospect and their business. When people are asked about themselves it is amazing how even the most stubborn person will open up and have a flowing conversation. The more information you find from your prospect the more chance you have of identifying exactly how you can help them and make a sale.
  • Take notes on everything they say. This will help you remember all the small gems of information you hear from them as well as show that you are listening intently to them if you are face to face.
  • Spend time learning great questioning skills. A powerful question can create amazing rapport, make your prospect think of things they hadn’t thought about before and send someone on a journey of discovery about the possibilities you offer.
  • Don’t be afraid to go off topic and explore where a conversation goes. You can always steer a conversation back to the business in hand later on should a prospect start taking too much time discussing their holidays or family. Remember, if they have brought up a subject during your conversation it is obviously important to them. Nothing will turn a prospect colder, quicker than sensing you’re not interested in what is significant to them.
  • Shut up! Many people talk themselves out of a sale on a daily basis but to my knowledge nobody has ever listened themselves out of a deal. Listen deeply and paraphrase only the important things.
  • Stay humble. Nobody likes a smart arse and nobody likes to give money to one. Remember the basics of politeness, etiquette and depending where in the world you are doing business the customs associated with the culture. You are never the only person they can buy from, you are never the best price and you are never the only option. So stay humble, stay passionate about what you sell and helping your customers and above all be nice, the world needs more of that.